Has Media Control of Public Opinion Gone Too Far? The Answer is Yes – Conservative Article
Over the past century, the world has seen a complete digital revolution, particularly impacting the media sector. Traditionally, media was confined to print and radio sources. However, the digital age has sparked a shift to online news. As the size of the media has grown, so too has its influence over our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. That in itself is concerning.
The UK rates highly among liberal democracies for having a pluralist media. The Democratic Audit, a research unit based in LSE aimed at advancing democracy in the UK, identifies 5 components that make it so fair. These are a free press, a publicly owned broadcaster, some private broadcasters, journalistic professionalism and social media.
But despite meeting these criteria, the UK media’s inherent bias in their publication grants a dangerous ability to sway public opinion, by blurring the line between facts and opinion.
The Audit reports that the biggest threat to the UK media’s democratic nature, is its partisan bias. News channels such as the BBC, Sky and ITV are all regulated, and therefore nonpartisan. Yet, the picture is worryingly different in the print media, as 24% of papers’ political orientation favours the Conservatives – three times the number supporting the Labour party.
Despite being supposedly free and independent, the press is extremely politicised.
The Daily Mail – described by 44% of Britons as ‘very right-wing’ – not only reports favourably to for Conservatives, but the paper’s billionaire owner, Lord Rothermere, is a public supporter of the party, frequently making generous donations to election campaigns. Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch and owner of The Sun, The Times as well as many other news outlets, is also a strong Conservative supporter.
The political opinions of these owners disconcertingly reflect in the stories their papers are publishing. The Leveson Inquiry into media ethics brings to light just how much power these billionaires have. They are also willing to go far in order to secure a strong headline boosting their readership and promoting a particular agenda.
The media has also played a role in the outcome of elections. “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” – a frequently cited headline from 1992 referencing the Conservative’s victory at that year’s election. Throughout the campaign trail, The Sun heavily endorsed the conservatives, whilst publishing hostile and damning arguments toward Labour. By pursuing a strong Conservative agenda to the public for months, The Sun assisted John Major in securing a 4-election winning streak for the Conservatives.
The media’s power to control public focus is not confined to election results. Over the past two months, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has seen protests take place across the UK. Whilst the movement has always been active, this recent resurgence feels even more powerful due to the worldwide reaction sparked by George Floyd’s death. Yet, British media’s recent reporting does not reflect just how momentous these civil rights protests are.
On 4th June, thousands of people took to the streets of the UK to protest Mr Floyd’s death, but the following day this failed to dominate British headlines. Instead, the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian’s front pages – to name a-few – all bore images of Madeleine McCann. Following the identification of a possible suspect in her disappearance by German police. Most of these front pages made no mention of the protests at all.
I am not discrediting Madeleine’s disappearance nor am I alluding it is unimportant. The disappearance of a child is a tragedy yet her case is still open, still investigated and still funded. Whilst this is a significant development for her family, the events of the past 8 weeks are of extreme significance to the black community at home, and globally.
The British media’s failure to prioritise reporting on the protests highlights systemic racism in the UK by choosing to ignore ‘difficult’ topics. There have been several excellent pieces recently on POI covering the BLM movement so I won’t delve into too much detail in this article. Instead, I am including this example to illustrate how the UK media can twist our perception of current events, by prioritising some topics over others.
The British press has become so politicised that it chooses to ignore issues taking place that do not sit right with party leaders or reflect poorly on them. Freedom of speech and the press are essential to a democracy. Yet these are no longer mutually exclusive. All too often, especially in the tabloid press, what we are reading is the opinion of journalists. Not unbiased facts and actual news.
This distorts narratives of reality, often misreporting on important issues. Journalists are writing to support a political agenda. Not informing and impartially educating the public. Even the BBC, which is supposedly the most regulated outlet in the UK, has been accused of bias towards certain issues and parties.
The political influence and powerful ties that billionaire business owners have, means this politically biased form of journalism will continue. To overcome these biases within our press another media revolution is necessary. This time, instead of becoming more digitalised, there needs to be a shift to progressive journalism. Whilst pluralism is vital to the media, I worry that this has gone too far, what we have now is so many voices from a plethora of sources, that it creates barriers for grasping the voices speaking the truth.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Emer Kelly
Point of Information
I Couldn’t Agree More – Labour Response
This is a very important article which brought to light several interesting topics. It is shocking that the BLM movement did not get as much publicity in the UK as it deserved. Even worse, the coverage it did get too often painted the movement unfairly, and unsympathetically. Yet, social media platforms contrasted heavily with this. Whenever I logged on to Twitter, it felt like the sole focus of the platform was (rightly so) on BLM. This perhaps illustrates Emer’s point best when one considers who controls the flow of information: billionaire run businesses or the people.
Media bias towards the Conservatives is also very concerning? Would we not be better off if events were given fair coverage? But this article also made me grateful for platforms like the BBC who, most of the time, are reliable.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Freya Jhugroo
A Major Issue, But… – Liberal response
Emer has noticed a massively growing problem. News companies are becoming more and more biased, and people reading them don’t stop to question what is being written. There is no scrutiny against what they like to read, and so are being influenced way too much.
But I would like to highlight two growing concerns which Emer has missed.
This is not just a UK issue. The Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the owners of Fox, owns over 70% of local news in America. You may have seen the entertaining video of all these networks warning against fake news and biased media. Not surprisingly, most of these networks support Donald Trump.
What is more worrying is how these private news outlets are attacking the unbiased BBC. Constantly trending on twitter are things like#defundtheBBC. The BBC is the most important cornerstone of UK democracy. It is unbiased. “The right,” says the BBC constantly “is too left”, “the left,” says the BBC constantly “is too right”. If the BBC ‘pisses’ everyone off, it must be doing something right!
Just to show the power of this, type in ‘BBC is biased’ into your search bar. Article after article of rightwing newspapers attacking the BBC with little to no credibility. Try and find independent investigation reports declaring the BBC as unbiased against Brexit… it simply can’t be found! It has been buried under far-right nonsense.
The irony should also not be lost with ‘Vote Leave’ heavily relying on Cambridge Analytica – known for specialising in fake news to win elections. I recommend ‘The Great Hack’ on Netflix to show how far fake news is growing.
Emer has raised the attention of a truly important issue here, and I’m glad she did! But she has perhaps missed the fact that it is not just limited to the UK.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Max Anderson
I am currently in my second year at the University of Exeter studying Politics. It was as a young child going to visit my family in Northern Ireland that I unknowingly had my first interactions with politics.
Hello, I’m Freya. I am going into my third year at Exeter, studying International Relations and Spanish. My main areas of interest are the environment, societal injustices and foreign affairs.
I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.